by MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare / NDABENI MLOTSHWA in Bulawayo
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE ticking time bomb Zimbabwe had become in recent weeks has inevitably exploded on Monday with police opening live fire on anti-government protests triggered by the escalating economic crisis that has been aggravated by a hike in the price of fuel.
The shooting of two people in an impoverished area outside the capital Harare came moments the city resembled a war zone as protesters ran riot, burned tyres, used stones to barricade roads and blocked public transport from carrying passengers.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)has called a three-day national strike, coming weeks after similar action by medical doctors and industrial action ground education to a halt last week.
Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights at the time of going to print said it had attended to two cases of bullet shot wounds in the Makoni area in Chitungwiza, the dormitory town 30 kilometres southeast of Harare.
“Zimbabwe police should urgently investigate as fuel protests turn violent in Harare,” stated Dewa Mavhinga.
There were similar scenes of pandemonium in the second city of Bulawayo as protesters overpowered police personnel in the usual quiet city.
To the west of the country, roads into the city centre were barricaded and youths burned tyres.
Police fired teargas to disperse angry protesters.
“The Commissioner General of Police (Godwin Matanga) has put the Zimbabwe Republic Police on high alert and will ensure that the law is applied without fear or favour on anyone who incites or engages in any form of violence and unsanctioned gathering,” Home Affairs minister, Cain Mathema, said.
Six people were killed when armed forces fired live ammunition against demonstrators protesting the handling of the general election last August.
The Elders organisation expressed alarm at reports of growing unrest and intimidation across the country.
“Government has responsibility to manage the economy in a just and efficient way, and must listen to voices of civil society so crisis can be resolved peacefully,” the group of elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, who were brought together by Nelson Mandela, stated.
The price increase announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa this past weekend sparked the scenes reminiscent to the 2016/17 protests against the then-government of Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa was coincidentally on a trip to Russia and some former Soviet countries, ahead of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
On Saturday, he announced the prices will triple to $3,11 (R42,98) per litre for diesel and $3,31 per litre for petrol.
The wave of protests sweeping through the country looks likely to throw spanners in the work of government efforts to mend relations with the West.
Earlier, government threatened to expel some foreign diplomatic missions and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for allegedly influencing the strikes to perpetuate their so-called regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.
United States and Germany were reportedly targeted.
“Government will not hesitate to take action against such persons by withdrawing their visas, deporting them and declaring them persona non grata,” Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana, said.
There were no immediate response from the US and Germany embassies in Harare at the time of publication.
– CAJ News